I respect Sebastian Kurz, he is an old man. Alexander Schallenberg is 52 years old, a young age for the canons of several countries (including Italy) to become political leaders. But in Austria the precedent set by Kurz is hard to beat, given that when he became chancellor for the first time, in 2017, he was 31 years old. Age in which various future political leaders are still in full, very full ranks. On Monday 11 October, however, the Kurz era ended, and his successor Schallenberg was sworn in. It has closed for now, since a new return of the young man who first governed with the nationalists and then with the greens is not excluded, turning to the center.
A little ‘everyone sees the shadow of Kurz behind the figure of Schallenberg, so much so that the younger of the two had to declare: “I am not a shadow chancellor and I will support the government as group leader and party secretary for the best of our citizens” , he continued, announcing that in the next few days he will work to ensure the handover, before swearing in as a member of parliament. In the meantime, however, he has already sworn his heir as chancellor. “I approach my new role as Federal Chancellor with great respect for the post and future challenges. I can assure you that I will do everything possible to serve our beautiful country,” said Schallenberg, whose first words were dedicated (which surprise) right in Kurz. “I am convinced that the allegations against Sebastian Kurz are false and that this will be proven,” said the new chancellor, who promised continuity. “I will continue the successful path of the Kurz government, the pandemic, the economic recovery, the budget and the ecosocial tax reform.” What is needed now according to Schallenberg is “accountability and stability. I will work closely with Sebastian Kurz because anything else would be wrong in terms of democratic politics”. In short, if it is not a question of shadow stationery, we seem to be close to it.
But who exactly is Schallenberg? Born in Bern in Switzerland, separated, father of four children, he is considered an intransigent when it comes to discussing migration policy. The designated chancellor, who has always been close to Kurz and the OeVP but who is not a member of the Popolari, has the ability to negotiate internationally. The particular ‘coloration’ of his language – he knows French very well – reveals Schallenberg’s descent from the former Austrian nobility who was also distinguished from the rest of the population for his tone of voice. His father was a diplomat and his son Alex grew up in India, Spain and France. The phrases in the French language Schallenberg often uses in conversations reinforcing the flair of an old school diplomat.
The new chancellor considered a politician with a crystalline vision who also communicates with words, sometimes harsh, especially when it comes to his restrictive position on migration. When the Greens, in government with the Popolari since 7 January 2020, had asked for the admission of refugees from the burnt camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, Schallenberg said that “shouting for distribution cannot be the solution”. This summer, the now forthcoming chancellor had said that local staff from EU missions in Afghanistan should be evacuated to neighboring countries rather than to Europe. Schallenberg also supports EU enlargement in the Western Balkans to end the influence of Russia and especially China in that region. A law graduate from the University of Vienna and Paris, Schallenberg had been in Brussels at the beginning of his career, then held the position of spokesman for the Foreign Ministry (Minister Spinedelegger in 2009) and, when Kurz became minister, appointed him his ‘strategist’.